Shelter board making the right moves, June 15, 2005

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

We've had some editorial run-ins here with director of the homeless shelter from time to time over the past few years. These were related to the policy of closing on the holidays.

We didn't think much of this policy. Every time we mentioned it prompted a virulent reply from the director.

Our problem was not with the shelter, or the work it was doing. It was simply a disagreement over one aspect of their policy.

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The director was kind enough to provide me with shelter literature and I was impressed by their "tough love" approach, though I thought throwing them out on the street at Thanksgiving and Christmas was a little too tough.

Anyway, I was talking to a friend yesterday who brought up the subject of the shelter and all the bad publicity it has received over the state police investigation.

In his opinion, the newspaper editorial writers should lay off the board of directors. He said they are all good, honest, committed local businesspeople who have worked their tails off raising money for the shelter and that they just got bad advice from their director.

I don't know any of the shelter board members, but I trust my friend's assessment.

It reminded me of a situation I found myself in when I agreed to serve on the board of a charitable agency in another town. Believe me, it's not just showing up for a meeting once a month. Board members are expected to not only work to raise money, but to give themselves, particularly if your agency receives funding from the United Way. The United Way basically demands that board members contribute their own money.

My point is that I hope none of the shelter board members are implicated in the state police investigation. It's difficult to find people willing to work that hard to better our community and it would be shame if they become discouraged over the shelter's situation and leave.

Suffolk needs a shelter for its homeless and we're lucky to have people like those serving on its board. They are doing the right things, making changes and inviting in the state police. If they persevere, they'll get their ship righted.